Tonally, “Deadpool” is very similar to two movies I do not like at all: 2010’s “Kick-Ass” and last year’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service.” Both of those movies are ultra-violent and in your face with immature humor, bright colors and general wildness. But they are also very mean-spirited, almost begging for attention with their antics and becoming unpleasant and cruel as a result. “Deadpool” on the other hand, is a film made with a lot of love that, for the most part, succeeds. Based on a relatively obscure Marvel character known for his personality and self-aware nature, “Deadpool” could have very easily taken this lazy route. I thought it would.
“Deadpool” sometimes demands attention through sex jokes and juvenile gore, but with a level of self-awareness the aforementioned movies do not possess. It just is what it is. And that is a story about Wade Wilson, a wise-cracking mercenary (Ryan Reynolds) who goes under an experimental cancer treatment and subsequently gains near immortality from a healing factor, enhanced strength and martial skills, as well as becoming horrifically disfigured. When Wade is left for dead by the person who gave him powers (Ed Skrein) and his wife (Monica Baccarin) is kidnapped, he becomes Deadpool, a sword-swinging anti-hero, and sets out to get her back. On the way he is joined reluctantly by familiar faces from the X-Men franchise.
Essentially everything about “Deadpool” is over the top violent and silly, with nothing taken very seriously and the fourth wall constantly broken from the beginning. All this works both for and against the movie, because the juvenility of the humor leads to many casual sexist remarks and lazy, “Family Guy” level jokes about sexual orientation. Then again, I also found myself genuinely laughing hard multiple times, particularly whenever teenage X-Man Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) was on screen, and some of the action scenes are pretty brilliant. If anything else, the lazily offensive parts made the good parts look better but were still jarring and unnecessary and only detracted from the film.
This is not to say that the entirety of “Deadpool” is so insensitive as to be ignored. Again, there are some great jokes and quotes, and references and characters from the larger Deadpool and X-Men mythos are worked into the story very cleverly. My favorite X-Man, Colossus (Stefan Kapicic), is done right for the first time in the history of the franchise, and is done so with some impressive effects. I am glad the movie was made so clearly with love for the character and universe, because after Deadpool’s disastrous treatment in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” I had my worries.
By the time that I am writing this review, “Deadpool” has had a sequel greenlit and broken lots of box office records, leading to speculation on whether or not we will see more R-rated comic book movies in the future. This misses the point of “Deadpool’s” success, which I would credit to the aforementioned love and respect the movie was made with. Despite its problems, “Deadpool” never demands attention by being “edgy” or anything but what it is. It’s a fun, engaging movie that just happens to be rated R. Hopefully, any sequels will clean up the sexism and queerphobia, and we’ll be clear for landing on a truly great new franchise.